University's entrepreneurship center honors nine alumni

Mastery of 21st century technology was the theme of the center's first celebration of entrepreneurial success | February 2, 2007

Xavier University’s entrepreneurship center honored nine alumni entrepreneurs at its first “Celebration of Entrepreneurial Success” on Jan. 24 in the Cintas Center. The theme was Mastery of 21st Century Technologies.

Interviews with the awardees can be seen here.

Those honored were:
• Paul J. Cashen, MBA, 1993, who is president of daytaOhio, a company that matches untapped ideas from the scientific research community with the real-world business needs of industry, angel investors and venture capitalists. He counsels the new researcher/inventor through the process of developing the idea into a new company and the use of the federal and state grant programs as funding mechanisms. Cashen also served as president of PC On Call, where he supervised a staff of more than 100 IT engineers and elevated annual revenues from $200,000 to $15 million. Most recently, Cashen served as president/CEO of EnteraTech/Emerging Concepts Inc. and led a team that was instrumental in starting three new companies in the engineering and life sciences sectors.

• Eric Keller, BSBA 2004, who as a freshman raised tuition money by doing what he knew best: buying and selling cars, something he had done in high school. So he bought a used BMW, fixed some small problems, detailed it and sold it for a profit. Four years and several cars later, Keller graduated and launched Car Locators Inc., a Cincinnati-based company specializing in hard-to-find luxury cars for demanding buyers. Most Car Locators customers are career professionals who may not have the time to find a particular car. Further refining the niche, Keller stocks limited-production models whenever possible. He will go just about anywhere—most recently the Netherlands—to get what he’s looking for. Thus far, the company has grossed about $2.7 million.

• Scott Kessinger, BSBA, 1989, splits his time between two companies, C/e-Solutions, a venture intellectual property firm focusing on biotech solutions to alternative fuels and renewable energies and resources, where he is a founder and director. He also works with AdmitOneVip.com, a web-based boutique advertising and marketing agency focusing on the hospitality industry that uses technologies to pool smaller restaurant chains and individual restaurants to increase and divide purchasing power and leverage other opportunities that are normally available only to medium to larger chains.

• Andrew Lesko, BSBA 2001, started his career with multiple Internet-related ventures before graduating from Xavier. He later founded Innivation, a manufacturer and marketer of eco-friendly cleaning products, and invented its first product, a proprietary stain remover formula for tannin-based stains.

• Rich Owen, MBA 1996, is a board member and the chief operating officer of CR Brands Inc., a $70 million consumer products company. In 2000, Owen co-founded Redox brands, along with Todd Wichmann, by developing a joint investment between Redox shareholders and P&G. In 2002 Owen was appointed CEO of Redox Brands, developing the Oxydol and Biz detergent brands while pursuing strategic acquisitions and mergers. In 2006, Owen led the board of Redox to adopt a merger with ChemPro Brands, owners of Mean Green, Pine Power and Magnum Power cleaning brands. Owen was appointed chief operating officer of the newly merged entity, CR Brands Inc., a combination of ChemPro Brands and Redox Brands. Owen was a recipient of the 2001 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of The Year Award.

• Antonio Ragio, BSBA, Cum Laude, 1994, founded The Idea Group, a family of businesses that deliver management, marketing consulting and advisory services to middle-market, high growth companies. Since its inception, The Idea Group has contributed more than $1 billion in incremental revenue for its clients through strategic partnerships and marketing campaigns. In 2000, Ragio co-founded a private-equity fund, Virgin Ventures, a targeted SBIC fund investing in middle market growth companies. He has also led teams that helped grow four privately held companies, including Enpointe Technologies, one of the nation’s largest minority-owned technology consulting firms.

• Brian Thompson, BSBA, Cum Laude, 1998, started the "Book Trader" while an undergraduate student and was selected as the business school’s most outstanding entrepreneurial studies student. After a successful career in industry, Thompson started Sensus MI in 2004 to focus on remote connectivity to buildings and machines and then performing an automated continuous diagnosis. Systems may also be automatically optimized via intelligent remote control. Large energy, maintenance, environmental, comfort and health benefits are realized from Sensus MI solutions. The company was recently awarded the Frost & Sullivan European 2006 Technology of the Year and recognized for innovation by the European Union.

• Todd Wichmann, MBA, 1996, is president, CEO and chairman of the board of HealthPro Brands. In 2000, he left a position at P&G to co-found Redox Brands Inc, a company focused on acquiring established consumer brands via leveraged buy-outs, with fellow P&Ger and Xavier grad Richard Owen. By the end of 2002, Redox had $54 million in sales. In 2002, Wichmann left Redox to start HealthPro Brands, which acquired the FIT Fruit and Vegetable Wash brand from P&G. FIT is now the No. 1 brand in the fast growing produce wash category. In 2001, Wichmann won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for his founding work at Redox.

• The Sedler family, which received the Alumni Family Business Award. Father Tom Sedler, president, and his four sons, Tommy, Ted, Tim, and Terry, are actively involved in managing the business—and all Xavier alumni. Home City Ice is the largest privately owned company of its type in the United States.